Aboard their bright blue ride, Maridee Nelson and Barbra Pushies are following the path of L.A. County's estimated 2,500 food trucks, but with a twist: Their Yarnover Truck is believed to be the country's first mobile yarn store, a Little Debbie snack truck converted into a vehicle for peddling their yarn, notions and expertise all over Southern California.
The Yarnover Truck rolls out this weekend with a private party in Burbank and will continue to street fairs, music festivals and other events, most of them miles from what clued-in crafters call the LYS, or local yarn store.
Just as the chefs behind Los Angeles' food truck revolution pride themselves on handcrafted, often locally sourced food, Nelson, 45, and Pushies, 33, have stocked the truck with as many California product as possible, seeking out luxury yarn from Anzula in Fresno and Baah in Oceanside, which both have created custom colors for Yarnover. Knitwear designers Michelle Miller of the Fickle Knitter in Huntington Beach and Stephannie Tallent in Hermosa Beach designed patterns expressly for Yarnover.
It's a classic L.A. start-up story. Pushies, a knitter, and Nelson, whose specialty is crochet, live in the San Fernando Valley and work at studios — Pushies as a production coordinator for Tinker Bell movies at Disney and Nelson as a manager in theatrical marketing at Warner Bros. They met three years ago at a knitting group and shared their dreams of running a yarn store.
Inspired by vintage photos of Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn knitting on movie sets, Nelson fantasized about opening a store called Yarn Over Hollywood but couldn't leave her day job. Pushies shared her friend's idea while teaching a lunch-hour knitting class at Disney, prompting one student to ask, "What about a truck?"
Pushies went back to her desk and started Googling. That afternoon — July 5 — she and Nelson were standing on Melrose Avenue watching customers stream into Le Fashion Truck, one of the city's dozen or so non-food retail trucks. Right there, the Yarn Over Hollywood dream became the Yarnover dream, the truck named for a technical term in knitting and crochet.
"There hasn't been a lot of stopping and thinking," Pushies said. "We just started going."
The pair found a used Chevrolet P30 Step Van and a mechanic to evaluate it on Craigslist. Crowd-sourcing via Indiegogo.com raised $10,000 to cover the cost of tricking out the vehicle, which they have nicknamed Little Debbie and equipped with white floor-to-ceiling shelves and a skylight.
Pushies and Nelson, who have invested a total of $50,000 in launching the business, are keeping their day jobs. But come weekends and evenings they will drive the truck, looking for some of the 25 million Americans who knit or crochet, according to the National NeedleArts Assn., as well as those who want to learn. Part of the demand: People who are looking to make unique gifts that can’t be found in stores.
“To see someone thoroughly enjoy something that you spent so much time on,” Nelson said, noting personal choices one makes in material, color and pattern, “It's so enriching.”
Although skeptics may say knitting’s moment as the hot hobby has passed, the Needle Arts association reported that the number of yarn stores has remained stable during the last few years.
“So much is happening in the world of knitting and crochet. It's not just your grandma doing it anymore,” said Le Fashion Truck co-owner Stacey Steffe, citing the yarn-bombing movement of guerrilla knitters who wrap their work around trees, parking meters and other public places. “I think they [Nelson and Pushies] are going to be an integral part of the knit-crochet community and really show people what they can do with their craft.”
Pushies will continue chronicling the truck’s adventures on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. The Yarnover founders said one of their social networking pages is already loaded with requests for visits from Carlsbad to Paso Robles.
“I am looking forward to driving on the highway,” Pushies said, “because you are not going to miss us.”
Corrected: An earlier version of this story said Stephannie Tallent is from Manhattan Beach.